Judicial Watch Calls for Transparency,
Openness and Honesty in Government Dealings

 

Challenges Abuse of ‘Executive Privilege’ in Supreme Court Cheney Case

 

This week the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a new case with an old theme: executive branch secrecy. The case involves Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force – and the duty of the administration to disclose the task force’s deliberations to the American public.

 

Judicial Watch, a public policy group that advocates transparency, openness and honesty in government regardless of party, has been joined by watchdog groups across the political spectrum, including the Sierra Club, in seeking the answers to three basic questions:

 

  • Who was on Cheney’s energy task force?

 

  • What policies did the group secretly recommend to President Bush?

 

  • Why has the Administration refused to disclose this information – in contravention to federal law and court orders demanding public disclosure?

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

In July 2001, Judicial Watch filed suit against the Energy Task Force, charging it was not in compliance with the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which mandates that certain documents, task force members, meetings, and decision-making activities be open to the public.

 

In 2002, a federal district court agreed that Judicial Watch was entitled to discovery into the composition of the task force and ordered cabinet agencies involved in the meetings to honor our requests for information. That decision was upheld on appeal.

 

  • But rather than comply, the Vice President’s office and the Energy Task Force continues to insist that the courts and Congress have no authority to seek information about contacts with outside individuals alleged to have participated in the task force.

  

The Supreme Court will allow both Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to present separate arguments.  This is unusual and underscores the importance of this issue.

 

  • “We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court will allow both Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to present their arguments separately in the case against the energy task force,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Both organizations now will be able to make important points to the Supreme Court about the Bush administration’s unprecedented assertion of executive branch supremacy.”

 

Fitton also noted that the administration’s position on task force secrecy has been rejected at least three times by the courts.

 

  • “Executive privilege was improperly invoked by Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now the Bush administration,” Fitton says. “We feel confident that the Supreme Court will reject this abuse and that the American people will eventually learn the nature of the Energy Task Force and the recommendations it made to President Bush on the supposed behalf of the American people.”

 

  • “The Bush administration should stop invoking the Constitution to protect itself from accountability and any resulting political fallout.  The American people have a right to know whether lobbyists became de facto members of the Energy Task Force who wrote our nation’s energy policies.”

 

Judicial Watch’s case will be argued by Litigation Director Paul Orfanedes, a veteran Washington lawyer and participant in numerous high-profile cases.

 

  • “I am confident our argument will prevail,” Fitton concluded. “The administration’s belief that it is immune from court scrutiny, an action that is necessary to ascertain whether the open meetings law even applies to the Energy Task Force, is untenable. As the Supreme Court held in two similar cases – United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones – no one is above the law, not even the President of the United States.

 

 

For more information, contact the Media Department at (202) 646-5197